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Amid BRICS' rise and 'Arab Spring', a new global order forms

With American unilateralism ebbing, Western nations and the rising BRICS countries are still finding their way to a new geopolitical balance – and Arab Spring nations like Syria are caught in the middle.

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When a "new world order" was busy being born in 1989, and Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" played in a Berlin shorn of its cold-war wall, most of the world saw it as an epic and unforeseen liberation.

Moscow was less enthusiastic – as was China, which cracked down brutally on students at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

That new world order has lost some of its sheen in the past two decades. But in 2011, some kind of epic liberation is again taking place – this time in the Middle East. The United States and Europe are once more looking on approvingly, for the most part. But again, Moscow has issues. So does Beijing, whose leaders view mass street protests with alarm.

Yet unlike in 1989, the US and Europe are now cash-strapped and described as "exhausted." The rising powers of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (the BRICS) hold an estimated $4 trillion in foreign reserves and make up one-third of the world's 6 billion population. And they are posing new challenges to the world order shaped by the West.

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